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Race, Class, & Dancehall SPR18

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Julie Jenkins

on 22 March 2018

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Transcript of Race, Class, & Dancehall SPR18

Race, Class, & the Politics of Dancehall
--Racial identities, whether ascribed or self identified, seems not to be based solely on phenotypic criteria

--tied to occupation, economic status (class), color, adherence/non -adherence to hegemonic social expectations
--middle class able to send children to private schools
--working class less able to do so
--All Age school-
multi-grade setting
--working class felt like opps are thwarted b/c of lack of educational opps and professional contacts (primary route to social mobility)
moral judgements about the values and quality of persons in these spaces
"Dem people not going forward in life. All them do is smoke spliff and drink all white rum and tun themselves wutless"
--distrust of education as 'equalizing' institution
--focus on acquisition of wealth and status for social/economic mobility

--education isn't translating into more/better economic opportunities
-unemployment rate is higher for those with secondary education
"dancehall" expression mirrors experience & critiques social/economic hierarchies
--rejects assumption education and middle-class values are route to mobility
--valorizes capitalism, individualism, consumerism

When economy declined b/c of oil crisis in late 1970s--
policies aimed towards the lower class were blamed
Reacted by electing Seaga in 1980
fully imposed IMF conditionalities
seemed as the race, color, class, hierarchies were re-establishing themselves
Within the racialized class hierarchy, from the perspective of the middle-class
"cultural", rasta inspired artists as legitimate
"gangster" & "slackness" artists as problematic
To understand the lack of social mobility, have to examine:
Domestic & international economic policies
Social policies
the type of ideologies that maintain a racialized class system
Why might one see the discourse of 'hardwork' as an ideology that maintains the (racialized class based) status quo? Why might this idea be felt as constraining?
-reinforces class boundaries and idea that upper/middle class should be in control
-rather than transforming the economic, educational, and social institutions to allow for equitable distribution of resources and possibility for social & economic well-being
What is dancehall? How would you describe this multifaceted genre?
Conversation between
Carolyn Cooper & Donna Hope

both engage in academic and popular conversations about dancehall is situated in, constituted by, and a contestation of race & class hierarchies in Jamaica
Why is it important for Cooper to center lyrical & oral texts?
What is the historical (political, economic, racial) context from which dancehall emerges and becomes popular?
complex relationship between race, color, & class in Jamaica
but..alot of people seem to talk about this more in terms of class, even though discourses around the working class (and dancehall) are racialized & moralizing
"this disrespectful place where we have been placed, this place where we are consistently disrespected and mistreated, this place where we are consistently denied human rights, this place where we are denied access to resources, this place from which we are forced to recreate and claim our resources, identities, personhood and self-esteem by any means" (Hope p. 26)
In these two articles, Cooper is intervening in popular and academic debates about:
the relationship between popular culture and violence
the relationship between justice and violence
the relationship between types of popular dancehall and rasta-infused dancehall
What is Cooper's argument against the view that "violent" lyrics and performances cause violence in communities?
Shabba, "Gun Pon Me"
I have my gun on me and I won't take it out
Why won't I take it out?
There are too many informers about
And I don't want to have to shoot anyone in the mouth
The tongue is jumping up and teeth are jumping out
I'm making the gun explode and they're picking up the shells
I can't hid my gun or else a guy would tell
My gun is so big, yes, his head would swell
He would go and sound my name abroad
Like a tongue in a bell
I would have to slaughter him
And then finish off his mother as well
Hope's work shows that a significant portion of violence in Kingston is related to--
political violence
use of drug laws to criminalize the working class
What is Cooper's argument about misunderstanding of Marley's philosophy as just being about love & unity?
Full transcript